This is what you might call a bold election strategy. Former LibDem MP Stephen Gilbert is running again in St Austell and Newquay, a very Brexity seat which voted 64% to leave the EU. A tough seat for a Remainer to win back. Made even tougher by Gilbert’s brave decision to call all Leave voters “f**kwits“.
From Greece, naturally…
Yesterday afternoon a Google Calendar invite pinged into Tory inboxes from CCHQ’s Stephen Gilbert, outlining details of their election campaign conference calls so staff can dial in and be briefed on the plan for the day. One problem. The email arrived in the inboxes of Gilbert’s old referendum contacts book, rather than his Tory HQ contacts book. Which means the private dial in details were received by top LibDems James McGrory, James Holt, Harriet Shone, Sam Barratt and Ryan Coetzee, and Labour’s Joe Carberry, Will Straw, David Chaplin, Brian Duggan and Amy Richards. Ooooops…
From: Stephen Gilbert
Sent: 21 April 2017 14:33
To: Ameet Gill; James McGrory; Ameetpal Gill; Brian Duggan; James Holt; Craig Oliver; Harriet Shone; Craig Oliver; Stuart Hand; Olivia Jensen; Charlotte Todman; Lucy Thomas; Guillaume Amigues; Iain Gill; Joe Carberry; Charlotte Vere; Will Straw; Kamala Mackinnon; Amy Richards; Tom Edmonds; David Chaplin; Sam Barratt; Ryan Coetzee
When: Occurs every day effective 20/04/2017 from 06:00 to 06:45
Morning Campaign meeting
Hi All, please note that the daily Morning Campaign meetings will now take place at 09.30 am every weekday…
HQ conference line
Dial-in: 020 XXXX XXXX
Participant pin: XXXXXX
The calendar invite was then cancelled. Loose lips (and email cock-ups) sink ships…
UPDATE: A Tory source gets in touch to clarify that the pin revealed in the email was an old Stronger In pin, so the CCHQ conference calls were not compromised.
Where do the Tories stand on the election fraud scandal? They are bang to rights on failing to declare £38,000 of hotel bills for Tory activists, blaming an “administrative error”. The issue of transport – the fabled “battle buses” – is contested. There are three outcomes here. Are CCHQ right when they say they’ve done nothing wrong? Did they breach the rules on national and local spending? Or was there a conspiracy to hide spending from the official declarations?
Leaked emails reveal CCHQ told their local campaign teams that the cost of hotels and battle buses would be “accounted for out of central campaign spend”. It stressed transport within the seat was not included: “For legal reasons the Battlebus cannot ferry people around the seat”.
The arrangement had the “personal sponsorship” of Grant Shapps, was “signed off” by Lynton Crosby, Stephen Gilbert and Lord Feldman, and was “supported by Deborah Feldman’s Team in CCHQ“. That’s Lord Feldman’s sister.
The good news for the Tories is this shows they did see battle buses as part of the national campaign all along, and demonstrates they were taking steps to abide by spending laws. So they can argue there wasn’t a conspiracy to hide the cash. The bad news? If the cops find it should have gone down as local spend, the party chairman and his sister are implicated…
Newsnight reports that David Cameron aide and Tory deputy chairman Stephen Gilbert is doing two days work a week at Populus, the official pollsters of the BSE campaign. Despite CCHQ’s claim of neutrality during the referendum, they seem to be allowing Gilbert to remain in his post as Tory deputy chairman in charge of campaigning, while he also works part-time for the Remain campaign’s pollsters. Newsnight say his work at Populus will specifically be working for BSE. Gilbert is still listed as a Conservative Party board member on their website, and Guido understands he still has his nameplate on his office in 4 Matthew Parker Street, which is Grant Shapps’ old office. He also has a CCHQ security pass. How can the Tories claim to be neutral when their own deputy chairman is openly working for the Remainers?